Exploration: January 2018 Archives

Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks 2017 Letter Report (2018), NAS

"The evidence reports reviewed in this National Academies' report are part of a larger roadmap process developed and under implementation by NASA's Human Research Program. The goals of the program are to investigate and mitigate "the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration". The evidence reports are the first part of the roadmap, which is followed by clarifying the risks, specifying the research gaps that exist in addressing those risks, implementing research tasks, and obtaining deliverables. These steps are then assessed to ascertain the progress that has been made in preventing or mitigating the specific risks to astronaut health. NASA updates its progress on risk reduction for a range of design reference missions - missions on the International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth orbit, lunar visits or habitation, deep space sorties, deep space journey or habitation, and planetary visits or habitation (e.g., Mars) - by identifying the extent to which there is evidence that the plans for that mission will comply with existing crew health standards or that countermeasures exist to control the risk."

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 12 January 2018: Heading To Syowa Station

"The current plan is for me to fly to Novo tomorrow and the following day head to S17 by Basler (a converted DC-3 operated by ALCI and Ken Borek). S17 is the ice runway situated on the continental ice just ESE of Syowa Station. A helicopter from the Japanese icebreaker Shirase will then transport me to a field camp located on Skarvsnes, one of the larger islands of the archipelago. This remote field camp will be my home for the next several weeks while we explore, study and sample the various lakes and their ecosystems. It will be interesting to get underwater in these lakes and to compare them with other lakes we have studied including lakes Untersee and Obersee in Queen Maud Land, lakes of the Bunger Hills and in the McMurdo Dry Valleys."

Possible Lava Tube Skylights Discovered Near the North Pole of the Moon

"The pits were identified through analysis of imaging data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). If water ice is present, these potential lava tube entrances or "skylights" might allow future explorers easier access to subsurface ice, and therefore water, than if they had to excavate the gritty ice-rich "regolith" (surface rubble) at the actual lunar poles."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/hillary.sp.jpg

Keith's note: As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon - and lament half a century of not going back - it is important to understand that there have often been lulls in exploration. These lulls can be distracting. They can also be enabling. While people in airplanes visited the south pole after the Amundsen/Scott expeditions, no one gave serious thought to attempt an overland trek for decades because - well, been there, done that. In the ensuing decades - punctuated by World War II - expeditionary technology made great advances.

When people tried this again, the trip was just as exciting but was enabled by half a century of technological and logistical advances. When we go back to the Moon, much of these lessons learned in Antarctica should be reviewed. Old concepts will still be valid - and they can be alloyed with half a century of technology and operational experience.

60 years today a New Zealand tractor team mounted as part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition arrived at the South Pole. Led by Everest climber Sir Edmund Hillary, this was the first overland expedition to reach the pole since Amundsen and Scott had done so 47 years earlier.

An entry from their diary: "Kept going all day and toward the last 40 miles must have dropped at least 1,000ft. The last 20 miles had quite a hard wind packed surface with sastrugi in a SW direction. Derek and I were in the caboose just ready to change drivers when the tractors stopped, and Ed came back very excited from the lead tractor, he had spotted the Pole Station. We are now camped in sight of it and will move across to it tomorrow when we have had some well-earned sleep. The temp at 8pm was -13ยบ F with a few snow-flakes, however the sky is quite clear with sun shining now and then. Everybody in high spirits now the journey is nearing its end. What a bleak place it is here!"

FYI Sir Edmund Hillary and Neil Armstrong once made a trip to the North Pole together. I was reminded of that in 2009 when I was in Nepal supporting astronaut Scott Parazynski's ascent of Everest. I made certain that some Apollo 11 Moon rocks visited a memorial to Sir Ed. The Moon rocks then went to the summit of Everest and then, with a piece of the summit of Everest, both rocks went to the ISS where they reside now in the cupola.

All great exploration and expeditionary endeavors have profound and numerous resonances that simultaneously propagate forward and backward across time. May that tradition continue.

The final frontier: Making life thrive on Mars, Deccan Chronicles

"For Indian scientists who are designing gadgets to probe the surface and sub-surface of the red planet, the results hint at the need to scrounge for toxic chemicals that could hinder efforts to establish a sustainable agricultural system 400 million km away! Buoyed by the success of Mangalyaan-I (Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM), the top brass at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has the best of brains from laboratories across the country (unlike MOM which was designed by in-house experts of the space agency) to pool in their brilliance for assembling unique gadgets to scoop up Martian soil and scan every grain for chemicals and minerals of all kinds and hues. These studies are intended to throw light on evolution of planets, how life commenced in our solar system, and the interplay between geological and possible biological history of the solar system as well."

Exploring the lunar far side: China wants to grow plants and insects on the moon, International Business Times

"Other than equipment to study the geological conditions of the region, the Chang'e 4 lander will also carry a container filled with seeds and insects. The container, which will be made from aluminium alloy, will demonstrate the growing process of plants and animals on the moon. "The container will send potatoes, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs to the surface of the moon. The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis. Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the moon," Zhang Yuanxun, chief designer of the container, reportedly told local media last year. The container will be equipped with a layer of insulation to protect its contents from extreme temperatures. It will also be fitted with light pipes to ensure the growth of the plants and insects inside, while specially-designed batteries with high energy density will also be installed to provide a consistent energy supply."

Keith's note: While NASA drags its feet with regard to the notion of establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon and/or Mars, nations like China and India are wasting no time taking the lead. What is it about the Moon and Mars that excites these (and other) nations so much? Why can't we make up our mind where/how/when to go - and then stay focused on a plan? Meanwhile we happily build huge expensive rockets that are chronically late with no money for payloads to fly on them. [Larger image (Pat Rawlings/NASA)]

And then there's this effort in Ukraine. Even in the face of everything falling apart, the dream of exploring the universe cannot be smothered. Countries scrambling just to stay functional seem to be more intent and focused than we are here in the U.S. with all of our resources. NASA and aerospace contractors spend lots of money on pointless bling that they give to each other at fancy conferences. Imagine what could be done with that money if was used for something like this:

Ukraine's Lofty Ambitions, Fallen to Earth, NY Times

"Ukraine was once a vital part of the Soviet space program, home to many research institutes and rocket factories. Now, wracked by war and shaken by political upheaval, the nation struggles to hold on to its scientific traditions. On a recent visit, I was struck by the determination of researchers stripped of the resources taken for granted in the West. The biologist still tending a jar filled with bacteria once destined for space. The retiree holding together a small astronomy museum in Kiev with spare parts and pluck. From black garbage bags and duct tape, Tatiana Kovalchuk-Skorokhodnik, of the Ukrainian Space Agency, has built a mobile "planetarium" for children. With holes pricked in the makeshift dome, she has reconstructed the starry night skies above Ukraine."

Keith's update: Meanwhile the UAE is recruiting astronauts.

UAE Astronaut Programme, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

"The UAE Astronaut Programme is now accepting applications from all Emiratis. Apply to become an astronaut today, and carry the pride of the nation as you make history and become the first UAE national to go to space. ... The Emirati astronauts will be team members of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, and will join with the centre in advancing the UAE's position as a leading scientific and space nation. ... The UAE has great ambition in space, and our astronauts will play a significant role in our quest to reach our objectives. This is your opportunity to be a part of one of a historic mission for the nation."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from January 2018.

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